Let’s start with the good news: The guy who shampoos the red carpet for the Kodak Theatre might get the day off. For the rest of Hollywood, though, Feb. 24 could turn out to be the gloomiest Oscar night in Academy Awards history. Assuming it happens at all.
The 10-week-old strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has shut down most film and television production industry-wide, and it just forced the cancellation of the Golden Globe Awards, set for Jan. 13. The WGA had announced that writers would picket the Globes if NBC broadcast the ceremony. In solidarity, the Screen Actors Guild and the industry’s top publicists declared that actors would not cross the picket line. Suddenly, NBC found itself with a star-free event on its hands, and pulled the plug. Instead of the usual champagne-soaked glamourfest at the Beverly Hilton, the Globes have been reduced to a one-hour press conference on NBC News, during which the winners will be announced — probably without the winners being present. The telecast will be preceded by a Dateline special on the Globes brouhaha. Fun!
The train-wreck appeal of a de-glitzed Globes may attract enough rubberneckers to generate so-so ratings, but the press conference surely won’t capture even a fraction of the reported $15-$20 million in ad revenue that NBC had expected to generate for the event. And that, boys and girls, is exactly the kind of pain the WGA had hoped to inflict on NBC/Universal — and every other major network and movie studio — when the guild’s 12,000 members walked off the job Nov. 5 over a dispute about the future of online profits. Talks between the WGA and the AMPTP broke down in early December, and heated rhetoric has been heard from both camps. At press time the two sides were no closer to a deal than they were two months ago.
From the start, it appeared that, financially at least, the studios and the networks had the upper hand. A struggling screenwriter in the San Fernando Valley is going to run out of money a lot sooner than a giant corporation. Put bluntly, the AMPTP could essentially wait out the writers until the scribes got hungry enough to soften their demands. Awards season, though, has given the writers some mighty public — and economic — leverage. WGA West president Patric Verrone ominously tells EW that there are ”other means to pressure the companies.” No kidding. If putting the kibosh on the Globes put the hurt on NBC and made the world pay attention to the strike, imagine what stopping the 80th Annual Academy Awards would do?
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